A small wooden relic, that is supposedly a piece of Jesus's manger, arrived in Bethlehem on Saturday.
Pope Francis authorized the small wooden fragment, which is only a few inches long, to be permanently relocated from Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to the Church of Saint Catherine, next to the famous Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem.
This was done on Saturday to coincide with the start of the Christmas season... even though Jesus was not born on December 25th, if he even existed at all (and the argument that he did not exist is stronger than you may think).
But hey, fine. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wanted to borrow the "whole" manger, which is really just more old wood stored in the Reliquary of the Holy Crib. But the reliquary is staying at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Pope Francis was only willing to part with the small splinter.
So just like I did with the supposed tomb of Jesus that National Geographic covered in 2016 and again in 2017, it is time to cover some history. The Catholic Church has a history of producing more than one bullshit relic over the last 2,000 years (just look here, and here for two examples).
One of the problems with all the relics tied to Jesus is that they are notoriously discovered long after the supposed time of his life. The pieces of the cross for example, were allegedly found by Constantine's mother, Helena, and her tour guide Eusebius of Caesarea, on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem 300 years after the time of Jesus. And the Shroud of Turin just sort of popped up in France in the 14th century suddenly. That only makes it 1,300 years or so late.
So where did the piece of the manger now residing at the Church of Saint Catherine, and the bits contained in the Reliquary of the Holy Crib at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore come from?
Not much is known about these pieces until the 7th century, or 600 years after Jesus was supposed to have been born! Pope Theodore I, who had been in Jerusalem, fled to Rome due to the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land. While it took a few more years for him to become pope, Pope Theodore I is believed to be the one who brought the pieces of the manger from Jerusalem to Rome. Saint Sophronius may have helped Pope Theodore I acquire these bits of wood before he fled, but that is not much help in figuring out their history.
These few pieces of wood are still showing up in history 600 years after the supposed time of Jesus. What exactly are we supposed to be basing our belief on here? That somehow, people who were not present for the birth of Jesus were able to identify wood supporting his cradle hundreds of years after he was born and died? This is ludicrous.
And yet, the faithful still praise it. Barbara Boterberg, a Christian living in Israel, told CNN in Jerusalem that, "It touches me so deeply, so deeply because I really can find the little child Jesus inside, I really can find his presence and it's like the cradle is moving into my heart." She told them she has been praying for 40 years to see a piece of Jesus' crib return to the Holy Land.
Ugh... it is just bonkers that so many people in the 21st century still find this kind of ancient superstitious thinking compelling. Despite the controversies surrounding the Catholic Church and their sexual abuse scandals, which should automatically make you question their "divine" authority, these people are still willing to swallow this nonsense hook, line, and sinker with no qualms at all.
It reminds me of some of the things I covered in my "Response to Charlottesville" post, which talked about the dangers of dogmatism, as well as the much more recent post about the negative relationship between intelligence and religiosity.
We have such a long way to go as a species...